Endocrine disruption, diabetes, obesity—to the list of ills potentially associated with exposure to the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), you can add one more: childhood asthma. In a new study presented over the weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Denver, researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine found that if pregnant women are exposed to BPA, their children may end up at a higher risk for developing asthma early in life.
In a study of 367 pairs of mothers and infants, researchers measured levels of BPA in the urine of pregnant women at 16 weeks of gestation and 26 weeks, as well as at the time of birth. Afterwards, mothers were asked every six months for three years whether their child was showing symptoms of asthma. The results indicated, among other things, that BPA exposure was almost universal—99% of children were born to mothers who had detectable levels of BPA at some point during their pregnancy.
The connection to asthma, though, was a little less clear-cut. At 6 months of age, infants whose mothers had high levels of BPA were twice as likely to show wheezing as babies whose mothers who had low levels. But that difference disappeared as the children aged. Interestingly, though, the scientists also found that high levels of BPA detected in the mothers at 16 weeks of gestation were associated with asthma in their kids, while high levels later in pregnancy or at birth showed little association. That lends some credence to the idea that the impact of BPA—like other hormone-disrupting chemicals—might be dependent on the timing of exposure for pregnant women, not just the level.